Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'

The original Somerset and Dorset Railway closed very controversially in 1966. It is time that decision, made in a very different world, was reversed. We now have many councillors, MPs, businesses and individuals living along the line supporting us. Even the Ministry of Transport supports our general aim. The New S&D was formed in 2009 with the aim of rebuilding as much of the route as possible, at the very least the main line from Bath (Britain's only World Heritage City) to Bournemouth (our premier seaside resort); as well as the branches to Wells, Glastonbury and Wimborne. We will achieve this through a mix of lobbying, trackbed purchase and restoration of sections of the route as they become economically viable. With Climate Change, road congestion, capacity constraints on the railways and now Peak Oil firmly on the agenda we are pushing against an open door. We already own Midford just south of Bath, and are restoring Spetisbury under license from DCC, but this is just the start. There are other established groups restoring stations and line at Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone, and the fabulous narrow gauge line near Templevcombe, the Gartell Railway.

There are now FIVE sites being actively restored on the S&D and this blog will follow what goes on at all of them!
Midford - Midsomer Norton - Gartell - Shillingstone - Spetisbury

Our Aim:

Our aim is to use a mix of lobbying, strategic track-bed purchase, fundraising and encouragement and support of groups already preserving sections of the route, as well as working with local and national government, local people, countryside groups and railway enthusiasts (of all types!) To restore sections of the route as they become viable.
Whilst the New S&D will primarily be a modern passenger and freight railway offering state of the art trains and services, we will also restore the infrastructure to the highest standards and encourage steam working and steam specials over all sections of the route, as well as work very closely with existing heritage lines established on the route.

This blog contains my personal views. Anything said here does not necessarily represent the aims or views of any of the groups currently restoring, preserving or operating trains over the Somerset and Dorset Railway!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Just a quickie to let you all know that Midford is now ours! We now have all the paperwork including originals going back to 1895.

We'll shortly apply for planning permission (hopefully just a formality) to rebuild the station building, signalbox etc. We'll start workparties very soon to start cosmetic restoration of the site.

Fantastic news and the first step towards restoration of the whole line as a freight and passenger transport gateway for the 21st century. The future starts today ...
Posted by Picasa


Anonymous said...

How do you intend to interface with the cycle route which has already passed planning and started construction on the 'Two Tunnels' route?

Sunshiner said...

As I said in the post, this is the future. As oil supplies start to falter then dry up, and electricity generating capacity falls rather than rises to meet a projected extra demand for rather transient electric cars, everyone will be clamouring for the railways to be brought back ASAP, particularly businesspeople and people living in isolated communities. I think that cycleways, as a leisure facility, will quickly be regarded as expendable in this climate, where they conflict with rail. They'll obviously be able to relocate where a shared right of way can't be negotiated or is physically difficult, in fact thousands of miles of decaying roads will be available to them, so I can't see how this is ever going to be a problem, except perhaps to those with a 20th century mindset LOL!

In any case at Midford we will probably not lay track for many years and the cycleway can stay exactly where it is. The intention is to work VERY closely with cycle groups so there's no possible problems in the future. When the line is ready to return there will be 100% support for it.

Remember that both rail and cycle are sustainable transport systems with a future. Our hope is that many cyclists join the New S&D so they can work very closely with what we're doing. Hopefully our method of working will be adopted nationwide. Cycleways are as much a part of the future as railways, but will always be a junior partner, simply because of the contrast in the amount of passengers/freight that can be taken on a train as opposed to bike!

Anonymous said...

I think that you will be underestimating the cycle route to regard it as purely an 'expendable' leisure facility. When the 2-Tunnels route opens I believe that there is likely to be an increasing amount of utility and commuter bike traffic from the south of the area. As you rightly imply, fossil fueled transport isn't going to get any cheaper and cycling will increasingly be recognised as a serious mode of transport once again. If and when your trains return, to travel on them is unlikely to be cheap whatever you fuel them on. I sincerely hope that you will work closely with 2-Tunnels, Sustrans and B&NES to help maintain the integrity of this increasingly important route during the, as you put it, many years before any thought of tracklaying. Good luck.

Knoxy said...

brilliant Steve, time for a beer in the Hope & Anchor soon then....

Anonymous said...

Look forward to seeing it progress.


Anonymous said...

Well done - a significant step.

Please keep the updates coming - will be interested to see how the station is to be renovated.

As a thought, the old station at Warmley does good trade as a tea room with passing cyclists.

Sunshiner said...

Thanks for all the comments. I don't think a tea room is an option per se, as we certainly wouldn't want to take trade away from the Hope and Anchor - in fcat we'll become huge advocates for the pub as things progress. They are going to see a big increase in trade! (Mick, obviously that beer will be most welcome!)

Re the cycleway - I certainly don't think any cycleway will be 'expendable' but they will need to relocate at some points to make way for a rapidly expanding rail network. This will of course need to be done with the agreement of all parties. Railways are rather limited to particular routes, and I really think we all need to understand that the closures of the 60s and 70s were a huge mistake, and that the trackbeds have really only been held in trust in the closure period waiting for the return of the trains. I suspect that 95%+ of the Beeching closures will be reversed, and possibly a similar amount of totally new routes (light rail, interurban etc) will also be built, just for starters.

I hope that all towns and villages will also have cycleways, all linking in to a national cycle network.

As I said before both rail and cycle are sustainable transport systems, so will survive the upheavals of the next few decades, indeed will flourish. But we all have to accept that whatever society arises from the end of the oil age we will almost certainly need to still travel and, most importantly, have ways of delivering and receiving goods. Cycles can not fulfil this need beyond a certain point.

yamfaz said...

Great News!! This is where I first got involved in the S&D and I look forwards to pushing the project on. It has been 15 years!! As to the tea room, may be the pub could run it for us under a profit sharing system, something that is beneficial to both parties. Good neighbours are very important.

Well done to all concerned!

Knoxy said...

The national cycle network needs to feed into the railway network with space on the trains for the bicycles. As the taxpayer will need to fund the network there should be no charge for these bicycles, as we have all paid upfront already. This is what the Government should collect tax for, not for their fat cat expenses, and chauffeur driven travel. Give the MP's a free railpass and let them sample the system they think is good enough for us.

We can’t wait for the MP’s, so we must show them the way.

Midford is the beginning....

Anonymous said...

Specifically with Midford - where do you envisage the train actually *going to*? Sainsbury's may mind.

Sunshiner said...

I don't think Sainsbury's will mind one bit (see earlier comments elsewhere by Mick Knox)- if supermarkets are still a viable business in 20 years' time. They will need goods delivered, as well as customers brought in - though I suspect we'll all be shopping more locally then, in either case it won't be a problem.

We have looked at other approaches to Bath (ie via Limpley Stoke) but I suspect the vast majority will push for rebuilding back to Bath Green Park as it has an iconic status to us, and also would be useful as an operating base.

These are probably issues for the next generation, we are merely starting the ball rolling. We need to adopt triage as to what particular issues need to concern as at any particular time.

cliveski said...

"Remember that both rail and cycle are sustainable transport systems with a future."

I'd be interested to know how the trains will be powered sustainably. Currently the only viable options are coal, diesel or electricity generated from fossil fuel.

This is a serious question by the way - one of the things that annoys me about the hype surrounding electric cars is some people conveniently ignoring the fact that the majority of the electricity they use is generated by fossil fuel (fuel cells excepted) and the enormous amounts of energy required to manufacture lithium-ion batteries. In fact one of my favourite statistics is that when total energy consumption is taken into account over the full lifetime of a vehicle (e.g. manufacture, use on the road, spare parts and dismantling/recycling) the most energy efficient car in the USA today is the........Jeep Wrangler! It's simple to build (no exotic materials), simple to repair and keep on the road and even simpler to recycle when it finally does die. The point being that fuel consumed whilst being driven is a relatively minor contribution to the total energy consumption (and therefore carbon emissions) during the entire car's life cycle.

Sunshiner said...

This is a subject I've often mentioned on this blog. The first point is that steel wheel on steel rail is at least 4 times as efficient as road transport, so rail has a head start in any case bearing in mind the sustainability angle has to apply to all modes of transport. This gives it an inherent advantage and will obviously feature more and more when transport decisions are made in a future energy-constrained world.

There are obviously many forms of sustainable or renewable energy ranging from established modes like nuclear and hydro through to wind power, solar power, tidal and wave power.

I've also previously touched on biomass or wood for a new generation of ultra-modern wood-burning steam locomotives which providing replanting is done is totally sustainable.

Another consideration is the land footprint of rail which is linear. There would surely be opportunities along the route for smaller scale wind and solar units feeding current directly to the trains, with any excess being stored in batteries or even sold to the general grid.

One further consideration is that railway locomotives and rolling stock have a far longer useful working life than road vehicles. For example last week I was in Vienna and watching in regular service the very same trams that were working there when I was last there - in 1976!

An overview is that future rail development is way ahead of any plans for future road traffic (if indeed there are any!) Add the greater efficiency of rail, the total energy cost in constructing, running and recycling vehicles, plus its easier sitting in the environment and the multitudes of methods of generating and delivering power to the trains, one has to really start feeling sorry for the poor old cars and lorries, even before considerations of pollution, climate change, accident rates and impact on the environment!

cliveski said...

All good points. I guess the 'Jeep Wrangler' argument applies even more to trains given the comparative economies of scale they have.

Freddie said...

Congratulations! Great news!
No doubt a new cycle track could be accommodated in the extra work needed to double the line between Midford and Combe Down - although it kind of looks that they once started doubling the formation at Horsecombe Vale and never finished it back to Midford.

As for Bath, by all accounts the rapid bus route is a dead duck now so the old Midland line will be ready and waiting for you to connect to it.

And as to the supermarkets, they already use rail for delivery in the highlands of Scotland. I seem to recall reading that it was Eddie Stobart who told them it was uneconomic to use lorries!

Knoxy said...

energy will still be around, but just not as plentiful. It will be used where it is needed most and in my view this means rail. steel wheels on steel rail, beats rubber on tarmac, or concrete, in use of energy, so rail will win, light or heavy.

Its just a matter of time.....

Anonymous said...

Well done to all who made this happen!
I should imagine gasification could be a good alternative in the future whether on board feeding a diesel or syngas being converted into liquid fuel.


Toddingtonted said...

Well done folks! Your persistence is beginning to pay off! If you can do this in a period of austerity then the future ain't looking bad at all railwaywise. Well done again.

Anonymous said...

What is the footprint of the land that owned by NS&D?

Steve Overthrow said...

This news is fantastic, volunteer labour here and waiting.

Anonymous said...

"As for Bath, by all accounts the rapid bus route is a dead duck now so the old Midland line will be ready and waiting for you to connect to it..."

Actually, the BRT was going to end at the approx site of Bath Junction anyway an connect into Winsor Bridge Road. The rest of the ex-mR route (as used by the old S&D) towards Green Park is fast disappearing under the 'Western Riverside' development.

"it kind of looks that they once started doubling the formation at Horsecombe Vale and never finished it back to Midford....."

Yes, but that was simply because it proved far too expensive to (a) blast out the hillside and (b) double the tunnels for the project traffic and return on the investment.